What Did the Inuits Eat?

A traditional Inuit diet consisted of sea and land mammals, fish, birds, berries, roots and seaweed. Vegetation has always been in short supply in the arctic, so various types of meat made up the majority of the foods consumed by the indigenous peoples of the region.

Large mammals such as whales and moose were prized by Inuit hunters because one animal could feed several families for days. Whale hunts were common among coastal Inuit villages and still take place today. Caribou hunts are another way that Inuit hunters brought home food for the family and tribal tables. Because caribou travel in herds of almost unimaginable size, one or two successful autumn hunts generally yield more than enough meat to last the average Inuit village through the winter.

A traditional Inuit diet also includes seal. Seal oil was also used for frying, and seal fur is used to make parkas and moccasins. The Inuit traditionally use every part of the animal rather than merely harvesting the meat. The diet also is rich in seafood such as crab and fish, and several varieties of ducks and geese are hunted during the summer and fall months.

Blueberries, salmon berries, and cloud berries played an important role in the traditional Inuit diet. Even though animal organs contain significant amounts of vitamin C, the berries were an important source of this nutrient. They are also considered a sweet treat. "Eskimo ice cream," or "akutag," consists of whipped seal or whale blubber and berries.

Many residents of Inuit villages still adhere to a traditional diet, but most of them combine Western eating habits with their traditional ways.